Your Better Life Index

The OECD has launched a new index with the aim of facilitating comparisons of the quality of life across countries. You can find the country summaries here.

Ireland does quite well in the rankings, although the usual caveat about using GDP in an Irish context applies.  Moreover, the data used are mostly from 2008 and we have undoubtedly slipped towards the relegation zone since then.

14 replies on “Your Better Life Index”

It would be interesting to see how it ties in with migration. If people leave a country things must be bad, and if they migrate too a country things should be relatively better there.

It would be a good robustness check.

Ireland: Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 67% during recent elections; this figure is lower than the OECD average of 72%.

In Feb 2011 turnout rose to 70% at a time of unprecedented voter distrust.

Though I guess that depends on the opportunities to migrate too – very easy from say Dublin to London, less so from Chengdu to Tokyo.

Australia / Canada always do well, though I know where I’d choose to live if I was in the lower 40% of the population.

Shame as you point out it still uses GDP (throw out the good old equitorial guinea example) and it doesn’t appear to be real ppp based, median net household income (i.e. Australia has as many poverty / social exclusion issues as any ‘developed’ country, and your average European is far better off than your average American.

Re migration, not necessarily, personally and anecdotally (always robust, never straw man!) my “degeneration” as my folks call it left in droves as the economy boomed – we like living in Sydney / London / Vancouver / San Fran (most people I know are in IT in some capacity) etc.
Of course, things are very different now.

that should have been “lower 40% of the income bracket of the population”

You are a prisoner of numbers.
I voted out of habit but I do not trust the goverment , having said that I pretty much do not trust anything so maybe I am not representative of the mean in that regard.

@Rory O’Farrell


re: Data

Does the data suggest the conclusions arrived at by the authors is relation to women being able to “successfully balance” family and career”?
Could one also draw different conclusions from the same data. eg
That mothers have a greater financial need of working in some countries. Or that work was harder to find in some countries?
Or, horror of horrors, a thriving black economy in which married women participate?

The higher the %, might not necessarily mean higher success in balancing career/life objectives.


66% of mothers are employed after their children begin school, exactly the same as the OECD average, suggesting that women are able to successfully balance family and career.


51% of mothers are employed after their children begin school, much lower than the average of 66%, suggesting that women encounter difficulties when balancing family and career.

@ Joseph Ryan

Also, in Ireland children start school earlier. I wonder what the percentage of Germany women with 4 year old children are working.

Having said all that I think the interactive website is a nice addition. You can set your own preferences. The OECD can present statistics in a nice way, their interactive inequality statistics being another example.

The average (median) European is only better off than the median American given a median European preference set.

We are appalled by long commutes, expensive medicine and bad high schools; they are appalled by small homes, rationed medicine and bad universities.

‘Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards.’

Can money buy happiness?

For entertainment value:

I started with Australia and took every third country after that (haven’t got all day).

I then took the ‘average household income’ and expressed it as a multiple of the average.

I also took the ‘life satisfaction index’ and also expressed it as a multiple of the average.

I then took the FIFA international rankings, out of curiosity.


Country Income Satisfaction FIFA

Australia 1.21 1.34 20
Canada 1.21 1.32 76
Denmark 1.01 1.53 27
France 1.23 0.86 19
Hungary 0.62 0.39 52
Israel 0.87 1.22 33
Korea 0.73 0.59 31
Netherlands 1.17 1.54 2
Poland 0.62 0.59 71
Slovenia 0.89 0.66 17
Switzerland 1.24 1.30 25
USA 1.69 1.19 22

Okay, so the standout there is Netherlands, but a quick look at Spain (world’s number one team), shows that the Spaniards aren’t nearly so happy, so no positive correlation on football.

What can we say about this? Well on the whole there is a correlation, in that above average household income is generally accompanied by above average life satisfaction – 10 out of 12 countries.

The French are notably dissatisfied in spite of their wealth. Conversely the Israelis are happier than one might expect.

It doesn’t seem to balloon out, so USA is very wealthy, but not as extremely satisfied.

It would be great to compare these to wealth distribution, as well as average income per household.

It would be great to see householf income expressed as spending power, as for example Israel money might go further than average.

Australia and Canada come out well. I once read a weighty tome which compared development in countries that, due to colonisation, took British law, versus ones that took French Law/constitution. The British ones came out better.

Tentatively, from this, we can say that above average income is linked to above average satisfaction, but it is only part of the mix.

Conversely, below average income is linked to below average satisfaction, but not necessarily so.

If the whole thing does rely on averages, not absolutes, the this will carry on as there will always be above and below average.

Actually, perhaps this is a bit odder than it looks, as most people, I would think, compare their personal wealth with fellow dwellers within the country in which they reside: so it isn’t that people feel richer or poorer than far away countries and thus feel (dis)satisfied. Perhaps the link, if there is one, is more via, wealthier individuals mean a wealthier state which means more public good and we’re on to the terrain of ‘The Spirit Level’?


Important note on British v French colonisation: the destinations were different. Québec is French but it’s not bad. Kenya was British but it’s not good. However, British colonies tended to be more like Australia than French colonies, on average, with low population density of the colonised people, good climate and no malaria. Colonists who massacred the local population seem to enjoy better long-run outcomes than colonists who oppressed the local population.


“Colonists who massacred the local population seem to enjoy better long-run outcomes than colonists who oppressed the local population”

ouch!! Would-be colonists take note! 🙂

If you don’t totally massacre the local population, but merely some of them, you have to send a monarch to apologise to their descendants.

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